The legacy of the Xbox console is undeniable. Thanks to some of the best Xbox original games paving the way for Microsoft’s future, over 20 years of brilliance have now been achieved. And we expect that many more decades to follow are just around the corner. So long as Sony doesn’t steamroll Microsoft once more when the next-gen consoles emerge!
Today, we’re paying homage to 12 of the best Xbox Original games that you simply must play before you die. While always opting for the latest AAA next-gen Xbox games is often the go-to investment for most gamers, we implore you to take a step back to where it all began with these superb Xbox originals.
From Halo to Crimson, scroll down to view our editors’ pick for the best original Xbox games of all time. When you’re done, don’t forget to hit us up in the comments with any titles that you think deserved to make the list.
Best Xbox Original Games To Play Before You Die (Editors Pick)
Before we showcase the best selling Xbox original games of all time, our editors have butted heads, pinched, punched and slapped each for days as we created our ultimate list with 12 of the best Xbox original games to play before you die.
Now, before you join the melee, we kindly remind you that this list is entirely from our experiences. There will be a few games that you might think are worthy of making the cut. However, remember, this is our list. Not yours!
Rating: Best Xbox Original Game (Single Player)
Release Date: 16 November, 2004 Developer: Valve Corporation
As much as Half-Life 2 was huge on PC, there are plenty of loyal Half-Life fans on Xbox too. Subsequently, Valve’s one of a kind adventure is just as worthy of being heralded as one of the best Xbox original games of all time.
Beyond navigating the masterminds of G-MAN (Half-Life Antagonist), Half-Life taught a whole generation of big-budget game developers how to tell stories in an interactive space without continually wresting control from the player. If that doesn’t give you enough to agree that Half-Life 2 deserves to be on our list of best Original Xbox games then check this out also.
Half-Life 2 has often been regarded as a turning point for first-person shooters and paved the way for more modern record-breakers such as Destiny. As a pivotal turning point for the genre, concepts from Half-Life 2 can often be seen throughout modern gaming and it’s a real shame that Half-Life 3 was cancelled. –
Rating: Best Xbox Original Racing Game
Release Date: 8th September, 2004 Developer: Criterion Software
What’s not to love about Burnout 3? Heck, even hardcore sim-racing gamers can even appreciate how much fun Burnout delivered. It’s guaranteed mayhem and 100% pure entertainment.
Introducing many elements that separate Burnout from any other Xbox racing games that you have played, Burnout 3 received many accolades upon release as the best Xbox original racing game ever made. From taking out appointments while drifting to filling your boost meter to speed-shove competitors into walls, there’s a strong balance between an arcade-style racing experience and actual simulation racing.
You could argue that Need For Speed Underground should have featured on this list, however, Burnout has aged far better than the much loved street-racing experience. Going back to NFS Underground was actually a little disappointing and a next-gen console version just simply has to arrive soon.
With that in mind, hands down, Burnout 3: Takedown is a worthy champion for the best Xbox original racing game of all time. –
Rating: Best Xbox Original Platform Game
Release Date: 28th February, 2002 Developer: SEGA
A sequel to the critically acclaimed Jet Set Radio on Dreamcast, Jet Set Radio: Future was first released in 2002 places gamers in charge of members of a street gang which use inline skates to traverse through a futuristic Tokyo. Remember inline skates!? Oh my lord. What a time to be alive!
Spraying graffiti, challenging other gangs and evading the authorities, Jet Set Radio: Future is just an all-out fun time. It capitalises on the era where games were much simpler as concepts and focus purely on just goofing around to entertain anybody who had the privilege of playing this title.
As a re-imagining of the original game, Jet Set Radio includes improved mechanics, new characters, an open-world environment and plenty of incredible music to enjoy. There is also a multiplayer mode which was really cool to team up with friends and basically trash the streets of Tokyo.
It’s a first-class title and one of the best Xbox original games for gamers who like to just goof around or still have a soft-spot for inline skating! –
Rating: Best Xbox Original Flying Game
Release Date: 21st October, 2003 Developer: FASA Studios
Fighter plane games were few and far between back in the early 2000s. In fact, they are still fairly uncommon today. However, as the best air-combat Xbox original game of all time, Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge absolutely takes the cake.
Set within 1930, you will pilot ‘The Zeppelin’ and essentially get into whole heaps of bother with other air pirates. Avenging the death of your good friend ‘Doc’, your mission, should you choose to accept, is to take down air pirates, pop barrel rolls and much more in this simplistic yet incredibly fun adventure.
What’s more, because FASA studio opted to delay the game release, Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge also comes with an incredible multiplayer experience too. You’ll just have to find some people to join you!
This is a mandatory pickup for anybody who loves flying games. –
Rating: Best Souls Like Original Xbox Game
Release Date: 2nd March, 2004 Developer: Team Ninja
As difficult as Souls games today, Ninja Gaiden is actually flawless for it’s time. From 60fps action to the game mechanics, combat moves, enemies and antagonists, you’re looking at a super early version of what we can expect from huge games like Ghost of Tsushima today. Ninja Gaiden paved the way for everything we love about Dark Souls.
When Team Ninja and rockstar designer Tomonobu Itagaki, (Dead or Alive fighting series), delivered Ninja Gaiden, nobody expected that the game would be as action-packed as it turned out to be. You are looking at nothing less than a high-octane game that will have you throwing your controller at the wall for all the right reasons.
But for real, there’s nothing more satisfying than defeating bosses like Alma on Master Ninja difficulty. You will actually feel like you’ve been reborn as a god.
Ninja Gaiden is the best Xbox original game for anybody who is a massive fan of Souls games and won’t be afraid of having to continuously repeat chapters just to move onto the next level. Trust us, this game is next level difficult. –
Rating: Best Open World Xbox Original Game
Release Date: 26th October 2004 Developer: Rockstar North
No further comment needed! 😂
No, but seriously, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas could easily be earmarked as the best Xbox original game of all time. However, there are just so many great Xbox original titles that this game will, unfortunately, command our 7th position today.
Not only was GTA: San Andreas a huge deal because the game was just mind-blowingly awesome, but San Andreas was also delivered on both Xbox and PS2 simultaneously. In what could easily be accredited as Rockstar Games’ most ambitious efforts to date, San Andreas places you within Los Santos (Los Angeles) while also spanning a larger estate including San Fierro and Las Venturas. These are San Fransisco and Las Vegas respectively.
Between the memories, the memes and the continuos rhetoric that GTA has carved for itself online, you are not going to be able to call yourself an Xbox gamer until you play GTA: San Andreas on the Xbox original. We could literally start a brand new website solely dedicated to how much you can achieve with this game.
But, we suggest you just play it for yourselves. –
One of the great titles to come out of Bethesda was Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. As much as Bethesda needed a popular platform to publish games, you could argue that Xbox needed Bethesda more so with a couple of titles making our list of the best Original Xbox games of all time.
Morrowind delivers one of the best RPG experiences that consoles have ever seen. Centered around high-fantasy open world, the game comes with so much replay-ability and countless possibilities as you work your way through Tamriel and Morrowind. Given that JRPGs were booming at this time, Morrowind delivered something that these titles could not and for that, it was hugely successful.
For anyone who loves fantasy, perhaps enjoyed Game of Thrones too much and often forgets real world things like birthday’s or attending a meeting on time, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind will fast become the best Xbox Original game that you have ever played. Period.
Never mind the other Elder Scrolls. It’s all about Morrowind. –
Rating: Best Stealth Xbox Original Game Release Date: 21st March, 2005 Developer: Ubisoft
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is a series that just simply has to be played before you die. Of which, Chaos Theory takes the crown as our all time favourite Xbox original stealth game.
We’re talking about a time when Ubisoft was less focussed on churning out 10 open world adventures each year and more focussed around creating a series of incredible storylines with superb mechanics. With the option, for the first time, to change full loadouts before missions, based on if you wanted to go in quiet or loud, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory added so much more than previous titles.
It’s graphics were as good as Halo 2, there were expansions to enjoy, new co-op campaigns and a team of Splinter Cell agents that communicate with one another throughout the game. What’s more, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the last Splinter Cell game that was not released for the seventh generation of consoles.
So, if you want to play, you better be purchasing an Xbox original copy! –
Rating: Best Multiplayer Xbox Original Game
Release Date: 9th November, 2004 Developer: Bungie Inc, Xbox Studios &
No surprise to see Halo make our list of best Xbox originals and there are countless reasons why Masterchief and Cortana have been so successful since pretty much the start of the Xbox console.
For Halo 2, the centrepiece was of course it’s multiplayer mode and what a jaw-dropper that was! Today, Halo is still one of the hottest online multiplayers and much thanks must be given to Halo 2 for spring boarding the franchise into what it has become.
Halo 2 also delivered superbly on the campaign too.
While we can’t honestly say that Xbox Live probably wouldn’t exist without Halo 2 (it was already doing just fine before Bungie’s long-awaited sequel came out, thankyouverymuch), it is fair to say with a straight face that Halo 2 completely revolutionized online multiplayer gaming for consoles. In fact, taken as a whole, Halo 2 somehow lived up to its galactic levels of hype (it had already been delayed from Spring 2004 to November 9, 2004) and then EXCEEDED IT.
The campaign added compelling new layers to the Halo universe, including the stunning playable introduction of The Arbiter, the visuals were among the best on the entire console, and multiplayer…just wow. The “virtual couch” hopper system on Xbox Live let you easily connect – and stay – with your friends all night long, the ranking system rocked, the maps might’ve been the greatest collection of multiplayer battlegrounds ever collected under a single game’s roof, and th –
While you might be surprised to find Rainbow Six 3 so high up on our list of best Xbox original games, there’s a reason why we are giving much credence to this classic title. As a continuation of Tom Clancy’s legacy, Rainbow Six 3 gave us close-quarter combat with plenty of tactical military shooting to Xbox live.
At the time, Xbox Live was a fairly new service with just a handful of high-end games worth mentioning. It was not until Rainbow Six 3 came online that Xbox Live finally had its first breakout hit. Rainbow Six 3 was a class apart from the rest with both single-player and multiplayer modes hitting the spot every single session.
In addition, one of the greatest features was the ability to rock your Xbox headset and actually play the part of a tactical soldier. Issuing simple voice commands like ”Stack up” and ”Go go go!”, Rainbow Six stretched the boundaries of what was possible with gaming back in 2003.
And for that, Rainbow Six 3 is a worthy contender as one of the greatest Xbox Original games of all time. It took Xbox Live and kicked it up a few notches. –
Rating: Best Xbox Original Role Playing Game
Release Date: 14th September, 2004 Developer: Lionhead Studios
You may not have heard of Lionhead Studios as they were decommissioned by Microsoft back in 2016. However, they left the legacy of Fable behind which is categorically the best RPG Xbox Original game of all time.
Back in the early 2000’s RPG games were alive but nowhere near as compelling as Fable. There was fighting, adventure like Zelda, magic forces like Star Wars and a compelling storyline that would rival any other Xbox original game on this list. No matter how many times you worked your way through the Albion, there was always something that you had previously missed which also gave Fable a motherload of replayability.
No matter how much of a completionist you are, Fable will bury you for weeks upon end with a motherload of sidequests and awesome adventures. It’s a worthy contender for the best original Xbox game of all time but you’ll understand why Fable has fallen just short when we reveal the winner. –
Rating: Best Xbox Original Games (All-Time) Release Date: 15th November, 2001 Developer: Bungie & 343 Industries
It’s fair to say that the Xbox may not have survived had it not been for Bungie’s exclusive Halo: Combat Evolved. So for that, Halo: Combat Evolved takes the crown as the best Xbox Original game of all time.
It’s cliche. But we’re talking straight facts here and Halo was awesome.
Regardless of whether you were a previous FPS player or not, Halo: Combat Evolved appealed to the masses, came packed with a stunning storyline and transcended millions of homes into places that no other game had really been before. Not to mention that the Halo series flag shipped some of the best eSports moments since inception.
If you haven’t played Halo: Combat Evolved (or any Halo title for that matter) then take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and get playing tonight. –
We cannot stress how difficult that was to narrow our list down to just 13 of the best Xbox original games. You’ve probably seen other blogs on this topic that have gone and listed 30+ games and rightly so. There are just so many that you must play at least once.
Regardless of whether you agree with our opinions or not, factually speaking, the best selling Xbox original games will give you a better idea of what was popular back in the early 2000s. While sales popularity doesn’t necessarily correlate with whether a game is good or not, we can all agree that it comes pretty close.
Here are the best selling Xbox original games of all time. –
Xbox Game Title
Unit Sales †
Nov 15, 2001
Halo: Combat Evolved
Nov 9, 2004
Nov 19, 2006
Sep 14, 2004
Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack
Oct 31, 2003
Tom Clancy: Splinter Cell
Nov 17, 2002
Star Wars: Knights Of Old Republic
Jul 15, 2003
Nov 18, 2003
Mar 2, 2004
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Oct 26, 2004
†Unit sales are an estimate.
Greatest Xbox Original Games Roundup
With Sony & Nintendo so dominant throughout the early 2000s, Microsoft was not expected to make a play for the home-console market. But here we stand over two decades later with hundreds of absolutely brilliant original Xbox games that have brought so much joy to homes across the world.
Although the Xbox original was largely dominated by AAA titles such as Halo and Tom Clancy, there have been countless other phenomenal Xbox titles over the years. To make the cut as one of the best Xbox original games of all time is no mean feat. Especially when we are talking about an era where the Xbox was so dominant.
Given that PS5 sales surpassed the Xbox Series X a few years ago, Microsoft will be hoping that there are many more huge titles to come. In fact, without these games, who knows whether the Xbox would have survived and thrived for so long. We’re talking millions of players enjoying just a handful of games here! Many consoles have come and gone over the years and Microsoft has many thanks to be giving to some of these game developers.
From the Masterchief to even Riddick, enjoy some of the greatest Xbox original games of all time through Microsoft’s new backwards compatibility offering via the Xbox store. If you can forgive some of the outdated graphics, there are so many quality Xbox original games for you to enjoy!
Did we miss any titles? Tell us your favourite Xbox original games in the comments.
Meanwhile, here are some other awesome articles with listicles on the best games for each core genre available on Xbox.
Content Disclaimer: This handpicked shortlist of the best Xbox original games has been independently written. We have not been commissioned by any manufacturers featured on this list, nor have we received any royalties for this article. This includes financial reimbursement, free advertising or free gifts.
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